Today's Letters: Right decision; now let's move on

Published May 15, 2007

On May 9 the Hernando County Commission held a hearing for the proposed Wal-Mart big-box store on Barclay Avenue. On that day, several things happened.

First, many people have said that the results from the hearing restored their faith in county government. They also said Commissioner Jeff Stabbins did a fair and balanced job, as well as a very professional job, of running the meeting. Good job!

The members of the School Board came forward and did the right thing for the children. Kudos to Chairman Pat Fagan and member John Sweeney for attending the hearing, and also to member Diane Bonfield, who could not attend, but wrote a letter to the editors of both major newspapers against the proposal. The School Board members also extended an olive branch to the county commissioners to work more closely on issues that involved both boards. Excellent!

Every person who spoke at the hearing, except the landowner's representative, spoke against the proposal. Wal-Mart's attorneys and so-called experts spoke for the proposal, of course. The crowd was very well-behaved and civil, especially considering the passion and frustration they were feeling. They even behaved under the constant and sometimes petty cross-examination by the attorney. By now, I am sure you have all heard the commissions' decision. The decision was 5-0 against the applicant. So, now what?

I say it is time for all to move on. The applicant won't have any trouble selling this property to someone who will in put something better-suited for the area. After the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, a gentleman came up to me and said he wanted to buy the property if the deal fell through and that he would work with the neighbors each step of the way. I didn't get his card, but we are ready to listen. If not him, I am sure the owner will have several other offers.

Wal-Mart has lost nothing, because it didn't own the property. I hope it decides to move on because if it chooses another avenue, it will have a very tough sell. The county already spent $2.5-million for water, sewer and roads for Wal-Mart when it built its distribution center. Shortly after that, the company refused to properly pay its tangible taxes. The county had to spend $250, 000 of our tax dollars to fight it all the way to the state Supreme Court and the county prevailed.

What will Hernando County taxpayers and shoppers do when they find out the profits from their hard-earned dollars spent at Wal-Mart are being used by Wal-Mart to sue them?

It is time to let common sense, not emotions, rule the day; everyone should just move on.

Fred Maier, chairman, United Communities Save our Neighborhood, Spring Hill


Any 'big box' would have lost

Anna Liisa Covell's comment ("If this were a JCPenney or a Target store, I don't think it would have been a problem.") in the May 13 Times expresses an invalid assumption. At the Board of County Commission meeting May 9, objections to the planned big-box store focused on "location, location, location" and not the company, Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart wanted to put a big-box store on an already too-busy street that is not a thoroughfare, like State Road 50, U.S. 19 and U.S. 41. The proposed store will lack access directly from and onto Spring Hill Road, so all traffic must enter and leave the site using Barclay.

Residents at the meeting voiced their opposition to any big-box store at this location. They testified that this type of store is incompatible and unsafe for the surrounding area, which includes multiple, large residential communities and four schools.

The heavy traffic on Barclay already congests frequently from Elgin-Powell Road to Spring Hill Drive, as dramatically evidenced by a resident's video showing Barclay traffic alternately backing up and streaming by, with groups of students from the nearby middle school walking in the background. A big-box store would increase trip volumes exponentially, posing a substantially greater safety hazard and inconvenience for students, residents and cars.

Additionally, it would generate much higher traffic for Elgin and Powell, creating safety problems for Challenger and Nature Coast schools. Barclay Avenue north from the parcel to Cortez Boulevard would experience major traffic hikes and there are no near-term plan or funds to widen this stretch to four lanes. Finally, traffic would spill over to nongated, residential streets as drivers divert to avoid congestion.

The Wal-Mart attorney said in his rebuttal that residents' opposition had been directed against his client primarily because it is Wal-Mart. His perception, like Ms. Covell's, is wrong. Any company (such as Bass Outlet, Kohl's, Kmart, Penney's, Target, etc.) wanting to open a big-box store on this site would incur stiff resistance for the same reasons.

Barry Carter, Brooksville


The people's voice has been heard

I would like to thank the county commissioners for their recent vote on the proposed Wal-Mart on Barclay. I think their decision was what the residents of Hernando County elected them to do. They represented the people who elected them to office.

I watched the proceedings on the government broadcasting channel, as I am a 100 percent disabled veteran confined to a wheelchair. It's hard to get to meetings like this when you are disabled.

I think Wal-Mart's so-called experts thought they could bully residents by subjecting them to cross-examination by their lawyer. This matter was too important to my community of Pristine Place that no matter what tactic they used, we were going to be heard.

Maybe they should have spent a night at the local Holiday Inn Express and logically looked at the proposed site before they tried to shove a Wal-Mart down our community's throat.

Cecil A. Ray, Spring Hill